Review: B.o.B offers array of musical styles on CD

B.o.B, “Strange Clouds” (Grand Hustle/Atlantic Records)

B.o.B is a rapper who has totally gone pop, but that’s completely OK because it suits him.

The Atlanta-based artist fused elements of hip-hop, R&B and rock on his 2010 debut album, “The Adventures of Bobby Ray,” which produced the chart-topping “Nothin’ On You,” featuring Bruno Mars, and the top 10 hit “Airplanes” with Hayley Williams.

The rapper-singer-producer sticks with the same formula on his sophomore album, “Strange Clouds,” while tapping pop’s most successful hitmakers, including Taylor Swift, Lil Wayne, T.I., Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj, for collaborations.

He gets production help from Ryan Tedder and Dr. Luke, but he showcases his own production skills on the album’s opening track, “Bombs Away,” featuring a voiceover from Morgan Freeman. It’s filled with operatic vocals and a melody that sounds like it could be used in a horror show.

On “So Hard to Breathe,” B.o.B starts off the song on the acoustic guitar before he heads into rap-crooner mode. He’s at his best on that particular track along with “Where Are You (B.o.B vs. Bobby Ray),” where he’s found playing the piano.

B.o.B’s jovial persona makes “So Good” an appealing listen; other enjoyable songs are “Never Let You Go” and “Chandelier.”

“Play For Keeps” is the only song that has more of a hip-hop feel compared to the rest of the album’s pop-sounding songs. The beat thumps hard and he rhymes with aggression, but on this album, it just doesn’t fit. Of course, B.o.B doesn’t want to completely abandon his rap roots, but what makes him special is when he puts all of his musical talents on display.

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CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: On “Bombs Away,” Freeman opens up the album with a stimulating narration before B.o.B’s rap-singing shtick.

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